International round-up: Keane likely to miss vital final game as Irish seek play-off place

 

The Republic of Ireland will almost certainly have to go into tomorrow night's decisive Euro 2012 qualifier against Armenia without record goal-scorer Robbie Keane. The LA Galaxy striker is struggling with an adductor muscle injury and assistant manager Marco Tardelli admitted that his recovery in time for the game will be "very difficult".

"Robbie has a little problem, but we are hopeful he will recover. It will be very difficult, but we are hopeful," said Tardelli. "It's the same problem he had after the last match in Los Angeles. On Saturday he had a scan and he has a little problem – a big problem, not a little problem. There is very little possibility that he will recover, but we are hopeful."

In the final match of their qualifying campaign, the Republic only need to draw with Armenia at the Aviva Stadium to ensure second place in Group B and a berth in November's play-offs. They can still win the group and qualify automatically, but they would also require Andorra to beat Russia in Moscow, a rather remote possibility.

With no Keane, West Brom's Shane Long is most likely to partner his former Cork City and Reading team-mate Kevin Doyle up front. Stoke City forward Jonathan Walters has also been called up to the squad and Richard Dunne returns from suspension. "We have many options and we are confident in all our players," added Tardelli.

Wales travel to Sofia tomorrow evening, in pursuit of third place in Group G. They would need to beat Bulgaria and hope that Switzerland lost to Montenegro. "We want to finish third but obviously the Swiss have another game too," said coach Gary Speed, who wants to build on the momentum from good performances against England and Switzerland. "Going there is never easy and it was always going to be tough, but we can take confidence from our recent results and hopefully we can get a result," he added.

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